No More Adverse Childhood Event Statue of Limitations in Maryland

No More Adverse Childhood Event Statue of Limitations in Maryland

In the wake of a sweeping report detailing long-term childhood sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, Governor Wes More signed a provision that ended the statute of limitations (SOL) for institutional adverse childhood event (ACE) sexual abuse claims.

There is no statute of limitations on the hurt that endures for decades after someone is assaulted,” Moore, a Democrat, said. “There is no statute of limitations on the trauma that harms so many still to this day, and this law reflects that exact truth,” he added. Twenty-four states have approved revival periods known as “lookback windows,” which are limited time frames during which accusers can sue, regardless of how long ago the alleged abuse occurred. Maryland’s law creates a permanent window with no time limit.

For private entities, under the bill, damages are capped at $1.5 million for non-economic damages like pain and suffering, but there is no cap for damages relating to costs for services like therapy. For public entities like school boards and local governments, damages are capped at $890,000.

The Statute of Limitations

The Catholic Church has a long history in Maryland. Cecilius Calvert founded the colony in 1632 as a haven for Catholics, who often faced religious persecution in the Protestant-dominated British Empire. The statute of limitations, which protects both plaintiffs and defendants in legal cases, dates back about as far. This law cuts off a plaintiff’s right to recovery after a certain amount of time passes.

SOLs encourage victims to “strike while the iron is hot,” so to speak, and immediately file claims without delay. It is much easier to prove claims when the evidence is fresh and readily available. This law also gives tortfeasors (negligent actors) a chance to put the past behind them after a reasonable amount of time passes. People should not have to live their lives in fear and constantly look over their shoulders, at least in most cases.

In civil court, the statute of limitations is usually two years in a negligence (personal injury) case and four years in most other kinds of cases. 

However, this two-year time period does not always make sense. For example, if John worked construction in the 1960s and inhaled asbestos fibers, the resulting illnesses, like mesothelioma, might not be apparent until decades later.

So, in such cases, an experienced personal injury lawyer can work the system to hit the proverbial “snooze button” on the SOL alarm clock. Generally, claims do not accrue until victims are fully aware of their damages and they connect those damages to the proper source.

As a result, child sex abuse survivors could always bring lawsuits, even decades after the alleged abuse occurred. But proving them to be true had been much more difficult. However, this legal change makes it much easier to file a claim now that there is no need to prove that the discovery rule applies.

Procedural Issues in a Sex Abuse Claim

The statute of limitations is the primary procedural hurdle in a personal injury lawsuit, but certainly not the only one.

Incidentally, other kinds of equitable tolling (SOL snoozes) are available. For example, some victims were mentally incompetent at the time of injury, while others were under the supervision of a bankruptcy court. These individuals cannot file legal actions. In such cases, the law usually gives these individuals two years to file actions after they become legally competent or emerge from bankruptcy.

Pleading defects and a lack of evidence are the other two most common procedural motions in personal injury cases.

‘Improper parties’ is one of the most common pleading defects. For example, in church-related ACE cases, the proper defendant is usually the Archdiocese of Baltimore as opposed to the abuser. If the action names the abuser individually, the case might be easier to prove, but only limited compensation may be available. 

Speaking of proof issues, an attorney must prove every allegation in the petition by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). If attorneys do not do their homework and collect sufficient evidence, the judge may throw the case out of court, denying the victim his/her day in court.

Rely on a Compassionate Baltimore City Child Sexual Abuse Survivor Attorney

Child sexual abuse survivors are not alone. They are entitled to compassion, understanding, and significant compensation. For a free and completely private consultation with an experienced child sexual abuse survivor lawyer in Baltimore, contact The Yost Legal Group today: 1-800-967-8529. The lookback statue only allows survivors two additional years to seek the justice they deserve.